The Ireland Women’s Seven’s Team made history at the HSBC Sydney 7’s last night, as they ended Day 1 undefeated and topped their pool. Ireland’s phenomenal start has earned them a quarter-final against Spain, which will be played in the early hours of Saturday morning (2.34am Irish Time).
The Sydney 7’s mark the halfway point of this year’s World Series with Ireland coming into the tournament seventh on the log. Drawn into Pool B, Ireland opened their series with a 7-7 draw against Russia.
In what was to be expected in the first competitive game since November, both sides endured an error-strewn first-half. At the Dubai 7’s last November, Ireland recorded their best ever result against Russia, with a 26-0 win – but history didn’t look like repeating itself.
After going into half-time 0-0, Eve Higgins broke the deadlock with a fine try under the posts. Ireland kept the ball alive superbly after some strong carries in midfield to set Higgins free down the right-hand side and score under the posts. Captain fantastic Lucy Mulhall converted the try to give Ireland a 7-0 lead.
Russia pegged back the score-line almost immediately to tie things up again at 7-7 with neither side able to push on to victory.
Next up for Ireland were Canada who were silver medallists at the last World 7’s series in Dubai. Canada had previously won 11 out of their 13 matches at this year’s World Series, having only been defeated to series Leaders New Zealand.
The Girls in Green found themselves with a mountain to climb, as they got off to the worst possible start as Canada scored two converted-tries in quick succession, to make it 14-0.
Ireland struck back through great individual work from speedster Hannah Tyrrell who showed incredible gas to jink passed two Canadian defenders and sprint home from her own half. Tyrell is an incredible all-round athlete who has also represented Ireland in the XV’s format of the game.
Just before the half-time break, Ireland crossed over for another try to make the score 14-10 at half-time. It was a brilliantly worked move which saw the involvements from Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird, Anna McGann, Tyrrell and Mulhall before Louise Galvin dotted down.
Following the restart, Ireland stepped-up the intensity and work-rate as they began to dominate the breakdown with some huge turnovers. The Irish thought they had taken the lead from a Nic A Bhaird try, but the pass from Mulhall was deemed to be forward.
Soon after, Ireland ran a well-worked lineout move off the training which saw the ball make its way from one corner of the pitch to the other, to put Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe over for the winning score. The game finished 15-14 to Ireland as they recorded only their second ever win against Canada.
As the rain began to pour down in Sydney, Ireland faced Fiji in their final game of the day. It was a must win game for both sides as the winners would progress to the quarter-finals.
Again, Ireland found themselves 5-0 straight from the kick-off as Fijian Flyer Ana Maria Roqica claimed Mulhall’s kick-off and put her foot down to score within 15 seconds.
From then, Ireland regrouped and began to play some scintillating rugby. Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird received the ball in midfield and showed ridiculous footwork with an outrageous goose-step off her right, which left two Fijian defenders floundering. Finding the gap, Nic A Bhaird showed fantastic composure to draw in the last Fijian defender before offloading to Tipperary’s Murphy-Crowe for her 60th World Series try.
Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe has been in sensational form of late, having scored a phenomenal six tries at the last Seven’s Series in Dubai, one try short of the leading try scorer. Murphy-Crowe is currently on four tries at the Sydney 7’s and will fancy her chances in bagging more.
The Girls in Green continued their assault on the Fijian try-line as they began to gain momentum. Another brilliantly executed lineout move saw 17-year-old debutant Beibhinn Parsons cross-over for her first try. Parsons, became the nation’s youngest senior debutant in the XV’s format, when she made her first appearance in the green jersey last November against the USA.
Ireland headed into the half-time interval leading 10-5, and it was their turn to score straight from the restart, as Murphy-Crowe showed her unbelievable speed to beat the Fijian defence on the outside and score.
Murphy-Crowe showed why she is widely regarded as the best finisher in the country as she crossed over for her hat-trick and to give Ireland a 24-5 lead. The Munster player, made her first Ireland senior Sevens caps in the 2014 World Series in China.
The Fijians showed mighty spirit and refused to back down as they scored two tries to make it a nervy finish for Ireland. Indiscipline however cost Fiji as a high-tackle saw them go down to 6 players which helped Ireland keep possession and hold on to a 22-19 win.
Ireland ended Day 1 of the Sydney 7’s unbeaten for the first time in their history as they topped Pool B. Ireland will now play Spain in the Quarter-Finals with a real chance of progressing to the Semi-Finals of this competition.